Why mire 'Jodhaa Akbar' in needless controversy?

Feb 9, 2008 Arpana


New Delhi, Feb 9 (IANS) Just when Bollywood enthusiasts were looking forward to "Jodhaa Akbar", allegations are levelled that the film's maker Ashutosh Gowariker has distorted history and so should not be allowed to screen it. But the charges may not hold water.

Industry insiders point out that the movie releasing Feb 15 is just a dramatised account of a historical period. Gowariker may also be on solid ground as he claims to have read "Akbarnama" and consulted reputed historians like Irfan Habib.

Produced by UTV Motion Pictures, the magnum opus starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai weaves its content around the romance between Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar and Rajput princess Jodha Bai.

Although Maharani of Jaipur Rani Padmini, a direct descendant of Jodha Bai, has showered praises on Gowariker for maintaining historical accuracy, the Karni Sena, a Rajput community organisation, is accusing him of distorting facts.

Its members have burnt film posters in Jaipur and moved court to stay the film's release even though they are yet to see the film.

According to the Karni Sena, Jodha Bai was not the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber near Jaipur; her father was Motaraja Udai Singh of Marwar and she was married to Akbar's son Salim alias Jehangir.

All this when a section of historians says the queen's lineage is shrouded in mystery.

Pointed out Ashish Saxena of PVR Films: "Ashutosh never said it's a biopic. He always maintained that it is 80 percent fiction and 20 percent history."

Producers who have faced similar controversies are on Gowariker's side.

"Whenever you choose a book or some incidents from history, people always compare and complain about deviating from the original," said Ritesh Sidhwani, who produced films like "Dil Chahta Hai" and "Don - The Chase Begins".

"I think people who haven't seen the film have no right to disrupt its release. They should see the film first and then comment. The accusations are baseless. This kind of controversy will only add to Ashutosh's anxiety.

"He is not a frivolous filmmaker. I don't think a director like him needs a controversy to sell the film. Secondly, he had on board historians and has done proper research work before launching the film.

"And today's actors are intelligent too. I don't think Hrithik and Aishwarya would sign a film without getting a bound script. I am sure both the actors have reasoned with Ashutosh and he must have convinced them," said Sidhwani.

Historical movies in particular have always been marked by controversy.

For instance, "Mangal Pandey" starring Aamir Khan was criticised for distorting historical facts.

When maestro Satyajit Ray made "Charulata" based on a short story by Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengal media alleged that he had taken liberties with the plot.

Siddharth Roy Kapoor, executive vice-president of marketing and distribution, Syndication UTV Motion Pictures, said such controversies could dissuade filmmakers from trying something new.

"We have taken every precaution. A tremendous amount of research has gone into the movie. But there are certain elements that try to create problems and this would force the filmmakers to stay away from certain topics," said Kapoor.

"Judgments are made on the basis of reports published in the media. People should first see the film and then comment," he added.

There are various incidents wherein people have approached courts even a day before the theatrical release of a movie and sought injunctions on release on frivolous grounds.

UTV's much-applauded "Rang De Basanti" triggered a controversy when protests by the Animal Welfare Board led to a week's delay in the release of the movie. The board was objecting to a scene showing hero Aamir Khan riding a horse.

The second controversy cropped up when Kavita Gadgil, the mother of an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, who was killed when his plane crashed, objected to the film's release as the producers did not show her the movie that was loosely based on her son's life.

Saxena of PVR Films said this trend shouldn't impact the creative content of films.

"The censor board takes into account everything. So a filmmaker doesn't need to worry. So far, such cases haven't had such a negative impact on a film," he said.

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